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Fishing the Edges by Lefty Kreh

Studies show that about 10 per cent of fly fishermen catch almost 80 percent of the fish. There are reasons for this—acquired skills. One of the successful tools of an experienced fly fisherman is an awareness of edges. Realize that fish want to eat but they need to catch food that requires the least amount of their energy. Fish don’t have eyelids so they can’t close them against the sun’s glare. They also fear predators and so they prefer to station themselves near food sources where they can both hide and expend little effort waiting for their prey to arrive. 

Edges offer all these requirements. There are all sorts of edges in both salt and freshwater. Once anglers understand and know how to utilize them they can be more successful. Here are some of the types of edges that wise anglers look for.
SHADE—Overhead predators such as ospreys and eagles have a tough time seeing fish in the shade. Shaded water makes it more difficult for any prey species to locate fish. Fortunately, shade exists wherever there are fish—even in open saltwater environments. A plus for fly fishermen is that a fish laying the shade is usually less alert and feels more secure.

The most obvious place to encounter shade is where there are trees, especially if they overhang a stream or body of water. The thicker the foliage the darker will be the shaded water.  Many times when the best opportunities will come from the shady side of the stream. Just remember that you may be standing in the sunlight so a cautious approach is often required.

If you are fishing popping bugs in a mangrove creek or drifting dry flies or terrestrials in the shaded area along a shoreline it is advisable to offer brightly colored poppers or flies that you can see.

Bridges offer shade and almost any long-time trout fisherman will tell you that some of the biggest trout in his waters will lie well back under a bridge, which offers both overhead protection—and shade. Bridges are favorite hangouts for tarpon and snook. Check a lighted bridge at night and you will often discover tarpon or snook feeding on the up-tide side (the side the tide is coming from) on the shrimp and baitfish being brought to them with the current. But—and this is important, the snook and tarpon will be lying within the shade line on the water created by the bridge lights.

Undercut banks will offer overhead protection but also shade and this is where you will often find the biggest fish in a stream. In a saltwater channel if both banks are similar, the one lit by a bright sun will not hold as many fish as the shaded one.

A sunken log offers a good ambush spot for predatory fish. One side of the log will be shaded and that is the side more likely to hold the fish. Don’t retrieve underwater flies at right angles to the log. Instead, swim the pattern the length of the shaded portion of the log.

SEAMS---
A seam is where two different currents meet. This is perhaps the most productive edge for fly fishermen. Fish lie in the slower or calm water but close to the swift moving flow waiting for food to be delivered on the faster current.  

Here are some examples of seams not to be overlooked. The most common is where a stream or river flows near a bank creating an eddy or calm water adjacent to the current. The trick is not to throw well back in the calm water but so that the fly drops in the faster current immediately beside the calm water. This is where the predatory fish wait in ambush.

Seams appear everywhere in salt and fresh water. If a rain muddies the main stream or river the smaller creeks entering it will clear sooner. If you retrieve your flies in the clean water close to the moving muddy water you will be working a productive seam. The same thing applies in the summer when the stream’s temperature rises and there is a colder source such as a large spring merging with the main stream. Retrieve your fly in the cooler water close to the warmer river and chances of a strike are increased.

A favorite seam I like to fish for smallmouth bass is where there the river flows past a large rock or ledge creating a seam on one or both sides of the rock. In this case I like to drop my fly or popping bug in the calm water, which will almost always draw a strike if a hungry bass is lying there.

In saltwater there are seams where tide rushes against an obstruction such as a bridge piling or there is a tidal flow in or out of bay through a rather narrow inlet.  Fish will lie just inside the slack water but close to the swift tide waiting for shrimp, crabs and baitfish to be carried to them.

There are seams even in big lakes such as Lake Erie. What occurs is a colder body of water will move toward a warmer one. When this happens the warmer water will rise vertically against the cooler one. This sweeps upward concentrations of baitfish that predators seek. Such currents are best discovered with a temperature recorder on the boat. But they can often be detected visually by noticing on the surface a thin hardly perceptible seam where the two bodies of water meet.

In saltwater projecting points of land often form an eddy on the downside of the moving tidal flow? Between the eddy and the tide there will be a seam that will usually holds fish.

When flats fishing for larger bonefish, redfish or permit locating the edge is the key to finding them. Larger fish feeding on a shallow flat rarely venture far from deep water. They want safety if threatened by a barracuda or shark so they stay close to the edge of deep water where they can quickly flee to safety.

Understanding the importance of edges and how to fish them will up any fly fisherman’s score.

Lefty Kreh

 

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